1998 Creating ‘Feng Shui the Eightfold Path’

links to listen to the album here

I arrive in June from Pune via South Africa, broke and in a troubled relationship. I’ve got my room back in Shastro’s house and am given a little box room off the garage to use as a studio. Anugama loans me an eight track recorder and a funny little drum machine which displays “bummer dude” whenever I make one of my frequent blunders in using it. I stuff the room with borrowed instruments, most of which I’ve never played before – Celtic harp, santoor, bass, keyboards – as well as my trusty sarod and embark on what I plan to be a follow up to the previous year’s ‘Celtic Ragas’ album.

Explorations – with various members of our group of Osho sannyasin friends living on the island – of the wonders of tropical Hawai’i continue. Our local town is Makawao, a village really, packed with hippy types, all of whom seem to know one another and have time to pass with each other over coffee or beer at Casanova, a sannyasin-owned bar and music venue. The stores stock the sort of items we can only dream about back in Pune, fresh carrot juice, berry smoothies, organic tobacco…..

A bamboo forest is accessed through a gap in the fence by the road on the wet, northern flanks of the island. There are secret paths through this maze of invasive bamboo onto private property down which a river falls in multiple waterfalls, separated by stretches of shallow gorge along which we swim to reach each fall. There those in the know can be undisturbed and naked all day.

Every Sunday morning sannyasin friends meet at Wailea on Maui’s dry South-West, for a picnic and to snorkel the multi-coloured reefs just off the beach. One full moon night we gather for a campfire and songs on guitars, swimming in moonlight, sleeping under a champak tree, waking all through the night to different moonscapes as petals fall to lodge in our hair.

Our community project at Shastro’s goes on. A hot tub, outdoor shower and a rough garden kitchen are added and I continue happily moving and piling up rocks. Volunteers come for weeding parties, as we try to establish some bushes and flowerbeds on the barren grass. A Swedish friend turns up for one of these in a fancy dress and heels expecting to attend a wedding!

with Alistair Couper and his partner Sufi
Don Lax

Credit time. The album is decorated with great performances from local Maui musicians Don Lax on violin, Kevin O’Kennedy on Penny whistle, John Zagando and Shastro on flutes and Alistair Couper on frame drum and a santoor solo.

By the time I left the island in March 1999 (invited to be music coordinator for the year through the planned 40-day Millennial celebration) I had completed eight tracks of what I thought to be my Celtic-y, folky follow up to Celtic Ragas, provisionally titled ‘Pagan Heart’. And was banking on receiving a desperately needed advance on royalties for it. What I hadn’t got was vital – any interest from New Earth Records when I called them up to tell them what I was working on. Perhaps the Celtic wave had passed?

Two more enduring memories of the wonders of Maui went with me. A group of us rented a cabin at Poli Poli, half way up the three thousand-meter dormant volcano that we called home, set amidst redwood groves planted in the thirties, already massive, growing there faster than in their native California. After a riotous night with songs and guitars and a leisurely start, two of us decided to make a bid for the summit. This turned out to be many hours of grind through cinders and dust, panting for air as we pushed ahead fast enough to be able to return before nightfall. We finally reached the astrophysicist’s telescopes at the top to look down sheer from above the clouds into Maui’s desert Southeast and across the deep blue Pacific flecked with dangerous white, to the hulking volcanoes on Big Island a hundred miles away. Fortunately concerned friends brought out a 4X4 to meet us half way down the descent as darkness fell.

The other was to the nearby island of Lanai (formerly Hawai’is ‘pineapple island’) on the 7am ferry. As soon as they spotted us, a group of spinner dolphins arrived to put on a show. How innocently glad of our company they seemed! My heart was left bursting in my chest. It felt good too to be out on the open sea that connects this community of islands:  brooding Haleakala dominating Maui; dark Molokai long and forbidding; bustling Oahu just visible on the horizon; and poor little Kahoolawe, raped and bombed to shit by the US Navy for target practice. We spent the night in hammocks and awoke to find the tracks of a giant turtle in the sand, big enough to look as if they had been left by a VW Beetle!

Back in Pune and single again, I lay sleepless one night worrying about money. I must somehow play on my strengths, I told myself. Hadn’t I released two Feng Shui concept CDs a few years before on Nightingale Records? OK so the label had collapsed and I’d not seen another penny after my advance but could it now be a gap in the market?

I hope this is not a disappointment for anyone who knows and loves this album and who was persuaded that its music was specifically composed with ‘Feng Shui – The Eightfold Path’ in mind. While it wasn’t, a lot fell into place from some mysterious space, including an unusual image that dropped out of a New Age magazine into my lap. It was a Tibetan mandala that also included the eight trigrams of the I Ching, thus triggering in me a direct link between the two traditions of Buddhism and Taoism (and eventually becoming the CD cover image).

I was lucky that I was in Osho’s Commune in Pune at the same time as Bhiikhu and Waduda, founders of New Earth Records. Bumping into Bhikkhu one day I cautiously mentioned a new Feng Shui recording and he leaped at it! Once Waduda had given it the thumbs up they got me to spice it up by providing royalty-free recordings of traditional Tibetan chants and gongs that the label now had no use for.

I took myself off to blend them in (there was great deal of serendipity in how that worked out so successfully!) and come up with some text. In the end I used the opportunity to explore the philosophical basis of Taoism and the corresponding colour, image, element and quality of the eight compass directions. I added to each what felt to me the most appropriate of Buddha’s eight formulations of the path to Enlightenment plus an Osho quote on these.

I feel sad about the passing of CDs when it comes to this album. Sure, vastly more people can today enjoy the music online. But now nobody gets to see and read all the work I put into the six-page foldout cover! Here’s one page from it.

2 Responses

  1. Marije says:

    thanks Chinmaya, for this little look in your hippie/rock ‘n’ roll/sanyasin days. I love these stories;-)

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